Trains, Twitter and a Taxi

I confess that I'm one of the lucky few people in the UK that walk to work. 

I say lucky, but actually across the years I've made quite a few sacrifices and tricky decisions to create a 'golden triangle' with my home, my work and the little one's nursery, all within walking distance of each other.

Now the little one is 13 months old, those sacrifices (mostly leaving the London life and friends!) are really paying dividends- I walk to nursery, drop her off and then walk into work. Oh and in the evening I can walk to collect her, and with no traffic on the road and no dodgy trains to contend with, I know that every day I have a consistent and punctual commute. No £1 per minute lateness charges for me. Ha!

I appreciate this might be enough for those of you that commute by car or public transport to start throwing rotten tomatoes at me to remove my smugness. Have patience, I'm going somewhere with this.

Every now and then I have to travel with work and today was one of those days. And it coincided with my other half working away from home so it meant I had sole responsibility to pick the little one up from nursery.

All I had to do was to get from Wooton House in Dorking, back to Maidenhead in time to pick Anya up by 5pm. Driving was immediately discounted, I'm pretty new to it and it involves the M25 so journey time is anywhere from 1hr 30 to..... Well, take your pick.

So I opted for the train- a 1 hour train to Reading and then the local train back to Maidenhead. A quick search on the web told me that the 15.25 from Dorking Deepdene would mean I got to Maidenhead at 16.47. Great.

Arriving at the station I checked the National Rail app ( a firm favourite of mine) and could see that there were delays between Reading and Slough. Oh dear. A chill started from within. With my other half having now landed in Glasgow, the pressure was fully on me to get to nursery to pick her up- we don't have any other family locally that can step in in an emergency. 

The App directed me to the website for further updates which confirmed that a signal failure in Twyford was causing the delay and to look out for updates on Twitter with the hashtag #twyford. Ooooh. That sounded positive! Being a little bit addicted to Twitter, this was news to my ears so I started following National Rail too. (@nationalrailenq)

But then I went one step further. What if they were one of the companies on Twitter that has a dedicated social media team? That responds to people?? Quickly??!

I went in. 

I tweeted them direct. Within a few minutes a little beep. An answer for me. Lovely stuff! Delays should be clear by the time I travel through twyford. Relief! 

But the relief was short-lived as I realised that the station controller was announcing that my train from Dorking to Reading was also delayed. 2 minutes, 5 minutes and then stretching to 15 minutes! This was not good news- so I tweeted National Rail again to ask about my connection. Again, a really quick and helpful response. But by this time it was all getting a bit close for comfort so I had a re-think.

I used the National Rail app to check what time the train got to the other stations on the route to see if I could nip cross country and grab a taxi. I could see that with the delay it was now due to arrive in Wokingham at 16.25. A quick call to our favourite airport taxi company- Filipe Cars confirmed that they could meet me there and for £25 would get me to Maidenhead- ETA by 5pm! Result!

There are a few morals of this story- if you travel by trains then the National Rail app is indispensable. But more than that, their Twitter presence is fantastic and exactly what you need when things get complicated. 

I've arrived home in a relatively happy state. Yes, there were delays that I really could have done without but their quick, personal responses made me feel like they were my saviours. 

Still, pretty glad I don't have to do this every day!

The National Rail app is available for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7. On iTunes you can download it for free, but upgrade to an add free version for £4.99. 
We've used Filipe Cars on several occasions to get to the airport or for longer journeys out of town and they've always been the best value and very reliable. Their new website is a bit jazzy, don't let that put you off!

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